Propagation and Cultivation info. on wiki

Jane McGary
Fri, 12 Jun 2009 09:26:52 PDT
Mary Sue wrote regarding putting seed raising information on the wiki,
"And if Jane has something she has already done that we could
>add in a pdf file and then link it to a page  that would be great in
>addition to whatever Byron does.

The article in question, "Raising a bulb collection from seed," 
appeared in Rock Garden Quarterly 65(3) (summer 2007), an issue 
largely devoted to growing plants from seed. I found the Word file 
for the article but it doesn't exist as a separate pdf. If somebody 
would like to tell me how to make a pdf from a Word file, I can do 
that. I've never bothered to learn because someone else does it on 
all the publications I work on.

If you have a broader interest in seed raising and saving, you can 
buy a back issue from the NARGS Book Service at

The next issue, 65(4), also has some articles on seed raising.

A cumulative index to the entire run of the NARGS Bulletin/Quarterly 
is now complete and should be online at that site soon, if not already.

Just to comment on techniques: Some of the techniques described for 
germinating seed seem to be aimed more at testing viability than at 
actually raising mature plants. I've always felt that germinating 
seeds on damp paper or in bags of vermiculite in the refrigerator, 
and then transferring the germinated ones to a growing medium in a 
pot, is likely to kill a lot of incipient plants. It's probably best 
suited to very large seeds that can be handled by an amateur without 
damaging the emerging radicle. (I just transplanted some Styrax 
obassia seedlings at this stage successfully, but the seeds are about 
the size of large garden peas.)

Some techniques will induce germination but not necessarily result in 
healthy plants. This has been observed often in seedlings germinated 
with the aid of GA-3; in some genera, the resulting seedlings are 
etiolated and do not mature properly. Moreover, the chemicals needed 
for some treatments may be daunting for amateurs to handle outside 
the laboratory. Despite having taken a couple of years of lab courses 
in college long ago, I would not use sulphuric acid at home; I think 
even the highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide recommended for some 
seeds can be hazardous.

One of the most important things to learn about seeds is how dry 
storage affects a given species (this can vary even within a genus, 
e.g. in Fritillaria and Erythronium). It may increase germination 
success, decrease it, eliminate it, or trigger an extended dormancy 
period -- or have no apparent effect. Furthermore, whatever rule is 
discovered by experimentation, as in the studies reported by Norman 
Deno, it's possible that a few individual seeds will break that rule. 
Thus, even though I'm told by the literature that planting Adonis 
seed is hopeless if it's not fresh, I do it anyway, and have obtained 
a very few plants that way; it's worth the expense and effort, 
because I have no other way of getting plants in this genus in the 
USA. It isn't useful to obtain and plant seed of a common species 
that is known to have low storage viability (e.g., Fritillaria 
meleagris, Aconitum napellus), because you can easily get it some 
other way. But if you want a rare species with probably short 
viability (e.g., Fritillaria japonica, Aconitum krylovii), the long 
shot is worth it.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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